It is springtime – “kitten season” – when cats produce more babies than there are homes. Alley Cat Allies, dedicated to the humane treatment of cats, offers five easy ways people can help kittens and cats this spring. Visit www.alleycat.org/Kittens for a comprehensive guide to caring for kittens. Following is a condensed version of their suggestions.
Tip #1: Leave kittens with mom.
Like all babies, kittens are best left with their mothers, who instinctively know how to help their offspring. Neonatal kittens, four weeks old or younger, need around the clock attention and depend on mom for 100% of their care. Kittens five to eight weeks old can begin to eat wet food but are still being weaned. (To determine the age of a kitten, use Alley Cat Allies’ Kitten Progression Guide at www.alleycat.org/KittenProgression.)
If you find a kitten and know the mother is present, it is best to leave the kitten with her. To determine whether the mother is caring for the kitten, wait and observe for two to four hours to see if the mother returns. If she doesn’t return, the kitten could be abandoned. If you are unsure, Alley Cat Allies has a number of resources available to help. The Alley Cat Allies’ National Cat Help Desk can provide advice and direction. Another option is the Alley Cat Allies’ Feral Friends Network – local individuals and organizations that may be able to help with hands-on advice.
Tip #2: Don’t bring neonatal kittens to an animal shelter.
Most shelters are not equipped or trained to provide the necessary round-the-clock care for neonatal kittens. Some shelters have lifesaving programs for cats, but nationally, more than 70% of cats that enter shelters are killed. That number rises to virtually 100 percent for feral cats.
Tip #3: Volunteer as a kitten foster parent for a local rescue group.
There are kitten foster parent programs across the country. Though it is an investment of time and requires training, volunteering to foster young kittens is lifesaving and rewarding. To learn the basics of kitten care, register for Alley Cat Allies’ free “Help! I found a kitten!” webinar at www.alleycat.org/KittenWebinar.Volunteering to foster kittens is lifesaving and rewarding. Click To Tweet
Tip #4: Support and practice Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).
TNR is the only effective and humane way of stabilizing and reducing community cat populations. In a TNR program, community cats are humanely trapped, brought to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and ear tipped (the universal symbol that a cat has been neutered and vaccinated) before being returned to their outdoor homes. (Note: In the Asheville area, Friends2Ferals operates a TNR program.)
Tip #5: Advocate for policies and programs that protect cats.
Contact your shelter and local officials and tell them you support lifesaving policies for cats, including spay and neuter funding and spay and neuter before adoption. Write letters and call in support of community outreach and education programs that spread awareness about spay and neuter, community cats and TNR – you can make a big difference
Alley Cat Allies is the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats. It has more than 600,000 supporters and helps tens of thousands of individuals, communities and organizations save and improve the lives of millions of cats and kittens worldwide. Its website is www.alleycat.org, and Alley Cat Allies is active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and YouTube.